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Wikipedia Essay: Gender and Family Roles

Societal views of African Americans during the


1950s and the effect this had on family and gender
roles
Although the 1950s was a time when men and women were expected to stick to the
status quo, some began to feel uneasy about these conformities. This time period was
extremely “whitewashed” in terms of mass media, as almost everything was aimed at
white middle-class women. Gender roles began to become tied to the Cold War. In
order to create and maintain a healthy society, women were encouraged to stay at
home to care for their husbands and their families rather than pursue a career. Popular
television shows such as​ I Love Lucy​ and ​Leave it to Beaver​ portrayed women as the
homemaker, verifying these societal norms. However, this idea of women staying home
did not ring true for African American women, as they were barely depicted at all. Many
African American families could not afford to have the mother as a homemaker, thus
forcing them to find other work outside the home. ​A Raisin in the Sun​ ​by ​Lorraine
Hansberry​ is about a family living in poverty stricken Chicago. The women are shown
taking on different types of jobs. Beneatha is seen pursuing a career as a doctor, while
Ruth mainly stays home to clean and take care of the home.

Table of Contents
● What roles did men and women play in society during the 1950s?
○ Men’s role in society
■ Walter’s job in the play
○ Women’s role in society
● How did African American families differ from white families in the 1950s?
○ Differences in family life
■ Gendered family roles
○ Educational differences
■ Brown v. Board of Education
○ Segregated societies
■ Jim Crow laws
● How are family roles different today?
○ Society’s view on African Americans in the 1950s
○ Gender stereotypes today
■ The role of women in society
■ Men’s role in society
● How today’s society views African Americans
○ African Americans gender roles
■ Single Parent Households
○ Connection to ​A Raisin in the Sun
● References
● External Links

What roles did men and women play in society during the 1950s?
The role men played in 1950s society was more stringent than it had ever been before. Men
during the 1950s were taught that they were the sole breadwinners of their family. They were
supposed to have a very clean cut look and put on their business suits each morning as they
headed out the door to their stable jobs. After work, they were expected to come home each
night and take on the role of husband and role model as the father of their children. Boys were
taught from the get go that they had one role to play in society, even if this meant devaluing
women. Many television shows during this time period, such as ​Leave it to Beaver, ​only depict
the men as they are leaving for work and as they are coming home from work after a long day.
The show was from the children’s point of view with life in the household as the main focus. This
taught boys from a very young age that they simply did not have a place in the household, since
most men spent a majority of time away from home (“Masculinity, Gender Roles, and TV Shows
from the 1950s”). This is what society expected of the men of the 1950s and men were made to
feel bad about themselves by others if they did not have a masculine job. These are the types of
expectations that affected Walter in the play ​A Raisin in the Sun. ​Walter is deeply unsatisfied
with his job because he believed working for a white man as a chauffeur made him less of a
man. This greatly contributed to his consistent bad attitude and apparent frustration with his
family dynamic. It was not until Mama decided to give Walter full control of the family finances
that he finally began to act like himself again.

During the 1950s, specific stereotypes created to maintain a healthy society were put into play,
particularly for women. They were expected to stay at home and care for the house and children
instead of pursuing a career. Popular television shows such as​ I Love Lucy​ portrayed women as
the homemaker, thus verifying these societal norms. While men went off to work, women were
expected to stay home and care for the children, as well as clean the house. They were seen as
less valuable than men and were given more restrictions in society. However, women were not
as accepting with their given responsibilities as men. They soon became unsatisfied with their
role as homemaker and began demanding other rights. Women of the 1950s would later inspire
the second wave of feminism.

How did African American families differ from white families in the
1950s?
In the 1950s, the breadwinners of many African American families worked as farmers, while
white families usually had white-collar jobs with a financially stable resources. Other than farm
work, African American men and women were often employed in jobs that often did not involve
very many skills. More often than not, white men and women were employed in high paying jobs
which required a higher level of intelligence. This is one reason why African American families
did not own their homes, whereas most white families had little to no debt. African American
children were rarely educated, even at very young ages. It was not as accepted in society for
black children to receive an education privileges as it was for white children. Most while children
were required to complete high school, and even encouraged to attend college. Children were
separated in school by race, with the white children having better facilities and supplies. This
caused a lot of uproar within the African American community and it ultimately led to the historic
supreme court case ​Brown v. Board of Education​ in 1954. This court case ruled that the
segregated schools were unconstitutional and that children were to be educated with equal
opportunities.

The jobs during the 1950s were segregated as well, with white workers having more
opportunities than black workers. Some jobs even had separate water fountains and entrances
for the different skin colors. African Americans worked just as hard as the other workers, if not
harder, and were still paid a lower salary. They were even sometimes exploited or mistreated by
their bosses or supervisors. Because of the heavy segregation, many African Americans began
to feel unwelcome in public establishments, so they had to create places of their own. The ​Jim
Crow laws​ created this segregated society. Because of these laws, African Americans became
very vulnerable and were often convicted of crimes they did not commit. The jury was made of
all white males who would have no sympathy for the accused, which created even harsher
punishments, sometimes including the death penalty. Many African American men were wrongly
accused and were forced to face the death penalty, thus contributing to the rising number of
single mothers raising households on their own.

How are family roles different today?


Women are viewed very differently in today’s society than they were in the 1950s. They have
many more opportunities and play a larger role in society than ever before. Unlike the 1950s,
women today have the opportunity to work. Some of them even choose to care for their children
in addition to working a regular job. They are able to cover their own financial expenses, as well
as keep up care of a household and family. Women no longer let their husbands stand in the
way of what they want. The women of the past century worked hard to make their dreams turn
into a reality not only for women all over the United States, but especially for future generations.
Women are more assertive with their position of power in a family and they are now even seen
as equal to their husbands by their children. Women have completely broken the stereotypes
that were in play during the 1950s. There is no longer a recipe for the perfect American family,
as they are encouraged to be different from their peers. Today, single mothers are even
accepted in society, which would have been seen as taboo back then. Although women have
made great progress in the past few decades, they are still a long way off from equality to men.
Women’s movements are still very much alive in today’s society and females have been making
more noise than ever in the past decade about the changes they would like to see. Even though
women have been deemed more worthy in today’s society, but still lack a large amount of
respect from certain communities of people.

Men have made some steady progress since the 1950s. Some of them still believe in following
“tradition,” meaning they are still the sole breadwinner of the family. However, this is not the
mindset of all men in today’s society. The number of stay at home dads has been slowly
increasing over the past couple decades, thus reaffirming the fact that the wives of some
relationships have become the main source for the family’s income. The outdated stereotype of
women being owned by men has been slowly fading. More often than not, women and men are
seen as equals in a relationship, with one person’s importance not considered over the others.
Men also share the responsibility of household chores now, and they are often seen doing the
gardening and landscaping around the home.

How today’s society views African Americans?


African Americans have made great strides since the 1950s. There are many people in powerful
positions, such as Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have inspired great change in the
world. African American children are given the same opportunities as everyone else when it
comes to pursuing an education. In today’s society, there are people who stereotype the African
American community by their looks as well as how they are portrayed in the media. Most African
Americans are harassed and are victims of racial profiling. The African American community has
made great strides in society and they continue to do so to this day. But there are still people
who continue making racial stereotypes. Unlike the 1950s, women are taking charge of their
lives and not letting men boss them around. Most African American women are becoming the
head of the household. Just like Mama in ​A Raisin in the Sun. ​African American women are very
strong and confident in themselves. Women like Beneatha know what they want and how to get
it. There are many single African American mothers raising their children and most are still
managing to work full time and take care of their family just like Mama​. ​Although African
Americans have come a long way since the 1950s, they still have quite a way to go before they
are considered equal in society.

References:
Hussung, Tricia. “The Evolution of American Family Structure.” ​Concordia St. Paul​, 23 June
2015, online.csp.edu/blog/family-science/the-evolution-of-american-family-structure.
“Masculinity, Gender Roles, and T.V. Shows from the 1950s.” ​The Artifice​, 18 Oct. 2014,
the-artifice.com/masculinity-gender-roles-tv-1950s/.
Schulte, Brigid. “Unlike in the 1950s, There Is no ‘typical’ U.S. Family Today.” ​The
Washington Post​, 4 Sept. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2014/09/
04/for-the-first-time-since-the-1950s-there-is-no-typical-u-s-family/?noredirect=on&ut
m_term=.55d0ca1456b5. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018.
“What Are Your Memories of 1950s Family Life?” ​SunLife​, 18 May 2017,www.sunlife.co.uk/
blogs-and-features/ what-are-your-memories-of-1950s-family-life.
External Links:
“A Raisin in the Sun, Review: ‘Stirring.’” Review by Matt Wolf. ​The Telegraph​, 14 Apr. 2014,
www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/10742449/A-Raisin-in-the-Sun-r
eview-stirring.html.
“A Raisin in the Sun Review- Still Challenging Its Characters and Audience.” ​The Guardian​,
www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/feb/07/a-raisin-in-the-sun-review-lorraine-hansberr
y-crucible.
Nicole Ditt
Phuong Phan
Alan Cruz

Wikipedia Essay: Gender and Family Roles

Societal views of African Americans during the


1950s and the effect this had on family and gender
roles
Although the 1950s was a time when men and women were expected to stick to the
status quo, some began to feel uneasy about these conformities. This time period was
extremely “whitewashed” in terms of mass media, as almost everything was aimed at
white middle-class women. Gender roles began to become tied to the Cold War. In
order to create and maintain a healthy society, women were encouraged to stay at
home to care for their husbands and their families rather than pursue a career. Popular
television shows such as​ I Love Lucy​ and ​Leave it to Beaver​ portrayed women as the
homemaker, verifying these societal norms. However, this idea of women staying home
did not ring true for African American women, as they were barely depicted at all. Many
African American families could not afford to have the mother as a homemaker, thus
forcing them to find other work outside the home. ​A Raisin in the Sun​ ​by ​Lorraine
Hansberry​ is about a family living in poverty stricken Chicago. The women are shown
taking on different types of jobs. Beneatha is seen pursuing a career as a doctor, while
Ruth mainly stays home to clean and take care of the home.

Table of Contents
● What roles did men and women play in society during the 1950s?
○ Men’s role in society
■ Walter’s job in the play
○ Women’s role in society
● How did African American families differ from white families in the 1950s?
○ Differences in family life
■ Gendered family roles
○ Educational differences
■ Brown v. Board of Education
○ Segregated societies
■ Jim Crow laws
● How are family roles different today?
○ Society’s view on African Americans in the 1950s
○ Gender stereotypes today
■ The role of women in society
■ Men’s role in society
● How today’s society views African Americans
○ African Americans gender roles
■ Single Parent Households
○ Connection to ​A Raisin in the Sun
● References
● External Links

What roles did men and women play in society during the 1950s?
The role men played in 1950s society was more stringent than it had ever been before. Men
during the 1950s were taught that they were the sole breadwinners of their family. They were
supposed to have a very clean cut look and put on their business suits each morning as they
headed out the door to their stable jobs. After work, they were expected to come home each
night and take on the role of husband and role model as the father of their children. Boys were
taught from the get go that they had one role to play in society, even if this meant devaluing
women. Many television shows during this time period, such as ​Leave it to Beaver, ​only depict
the men as they are leaving for work and as they are coming home from work after a long day.
The show was from the children’s point of view with life in the household as the main focus. This
taught boys from a very young age that they simply did not have a place in the household, since
most men spent a majority of time away from home (“Masculinity, Gender Roles, and TV Shows
from the 1950s”). This is what society expected of the men of the 1950s and men were made to
feel bad about themselves by others if they did not have a masculine job. These are the types of
expectations that affected Walter in the play ​A Raisin in the Sun. ​Walter is deeply unsatisfied
with his job because he believed working for a white man as a chauffeur made him less of a
man. This greatly contributed to his consistent bad attitude and apparent frustration with his
family dynamic. It was not until Mama decided to give Walter full control of the family finances
that he finally began to act like himself again.

During the 1950s, specific stereotypes created to maintain a healthy society were put into play,
particularly for women. They were expected to stay at home and care for the house and children
instead of pursuing a career. Popular television shows such as​ I Love Lucy​ portrayed women as
the homemaker, thus verifying these societal norms. While men went off to work, women were
expected to stay home and care for the children, as well as clean the house. They were seen as
less valuable than men and were given more restrictions in society. However, women were not
as accepting with their given responsibilities as men. They soon became unsatisfied with their
role as homemaker and began demanding other rights. Women of the 1950s would later inspire
the second wave of feminism.

How did African American families differ from white families in the
1950s?
In the 1950s, the breadwinners of many African American families worked as farmers, while
white families usually had white-collar jobs with a financially stable resources. Other than farm
work, African American men and women were often employed in jobs that often did not involve
very many skills. More often than not, white men and women were employed in high paying jobs
which required a higher level of intelligence. This is one reason why African American families
did not own their homes, whereas most white families had little to no debt. African American
children were rarely educated, even at very young ages. It was not as accepted in society for
black children to receive an education privileges as it was for white children. Most while children
were required to complete high school, and even encouraged to attend college. Children were
separated in school by race, with the white children having better facilities and supplies. This
caused a lot of uproar within the African American community and it ultimately led to the historic
supreme court case ​Brown v. Board of Education​ in 1954. This court case ruled that the
segregated schools were unconstitutional and that children were to be educated with equal
opportunities.

The jobs during the 1950s were segregated as well, with white workers having more
opportunities than black workers. Some jobs even had separate water fountains and entrances
for the different skin colors. African Americans worked just as hard as the other workers, if not
harder, and were still paid a lower salary. They were even sometimes exploited or mistreated by
their bosses or supervisors. Because of the heavy segregation, many African Americans began
to feel unwelcome in public establishments, so they had to create places of their own. The ​Jim
Crow laws​ created this segregated society. Because of these laws, African Americans became
very vulnerable and were often convicted of crimes they did not commit. The jury was made of
all white males who would have no sympathy for the accused, which created even harsher
punishments, sometimes including the death penalty. Many African American men were wrongly
accused and were forced to face the death penalty, thus contributing to the rising number of
single mothers raising households on their own.

How are family roles different today?


Women are viewed very differently in today’s society than they were in the 1950s. They have
many more opportunities and play a larger role in society than ever before. Unlike the 1950s,
women today have the opportunity to work. Some of them even choose to care for their children
in addition to working a regular job. They are able to cover their own financial expenses, as well
as keep up care of a household and family. Women no longer let their husbands stand in the
way of what they want. The women of the past century worked hard to make their dreams turn
into a reality not only for women all over the United States, but especially for future generations.
Women are more assertive with their position of power in a family and they are now even seen
as equal to their husbands by their children. Women have completely broken the stereotypes
that were in play during the 1950s. There is no longer a recipe for the perfect American family,
as they are encouraged to be different from their peers. Today, single mothers are even
accepted in society, which would have been seen as taboo back then. Although women have
made great progress in the past few decades, they are still a long way off from equality to men.
Women’s movements are still very much alive in today’s society and females have been making
more noise than ever in the past decade about the changes they would like to see. Even though
women have been deemed more worthy in today’s society, but still lack a large amount of
respect from certain communities of people.

Men have made some steady progress since the 1950s. Some of them still believe in following
“tradition,” meaning they are still the sole breadwinner of the family. However, this is not the
mindset of all men in today’s society. The number of stay at home dads has been slowly
increasing over the past couple decades, thus reaffirming the fact that the wives of some
relationships have become the main source for the family’s income. The outdated stereotype of
women being owned by men has been slowly fading. More often than not, women and men are
seen as equals in a relationship, with one person’s importance not considered over the others.
Men also share the responsibility of household chores now, and they are often seen doing the
gardening and landscaping around the home.

How today’s society views African Americans?


African Americans have made great strides since the 1950s. There are many people in powerful
positions, such as Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have inspired great change in the
world. African American children are given the same opportunities as everyone else when it
comes to pursuing an education. In today’s society, there are people who stereotype the African
American community by their looks as well as how they are portrayed in the media. Most African
Americans are harassed and are victims of racial profiling. The African American community has
made great strides in society and they continue to do so to this day. But there are still people
who continue making racial stereotypes. Unlike the 1950s, women are taking charge of their
lives and not letting men boss them around. Most African American women are becoming the
head of the household. Just like Mama in ​A Raisin in the Sun. ​African American women are very
strong and confident in themselves. Women like Beneatha know what they want and how to get
it. There are many single African American mothers raising their children and most are still
managing to work full time and take care of their family just like Mama​. ​Although African
Americans have come a long way since the 1950s, they still have quite a way to go before they
are considered equal in society.
References:
Hussung, Tricia. “The Evolution of American Family Structure.” ​Concordia St. Paul​, 23 June
2015, online.csp.edu/blog/family-science/the-evolution-of-american-family-structure.
“Masculinity, Gender Roles, and T.V. Shows from the 1950s.” ​The Artifice​, 18 Oct. 2014,
the-artifice.com/masculinity-gender-roles-tv-1950s/.
Schulte, Brigid. “Unlike in the 1950s, There Is no ‘typical’ U.S. Family Today.” ​The
Washington Post​, 4 Sept. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2014/09/
04/for-the-first-time-since-the-1950s-there-is-no-typical-u-s-family/?noredirect=on&ut
m_term=.55d0ca1456b5. Accessed 8 Apr. 2018.
“What Are Your Memories of 1950s Family Life?” ​SunLife​, 18 May 2017,www.sunlife.co.uk/
blogs-and-features/ what-are-your-memories-of-1950s-family-life.

External Links:
“A Raisin in the Sun, Review: ‘Stirring.’” Review by Matt Wolf. ​The Telegraph​, 14 Apr. 2014,
www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/10742449/A-Raisin-in-the-Sun-r
eview-stirring.html.
“A Raisin in the Sun Review- Still Challenging Its Characters and Audience.” ​The Guardian​,
www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/feb/07/a-raisin-in-the-sun-review-lorraine-hansberr
y-crucible.